Adventure of Raju as Railway Tourist Guide in The Guide

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      Raju’s father died during the rainy part of a year. His end was sudden. His mother adjusted herself to the status of a widow. Raju closed down his father’s shop with his mother’s consent and set up at the railway station. He began to stock old magazines and newspapers and began to deal in school books. During the quiet hours on the platform, Raju read a great deal from scrap. He came to be called Railway Raju.

      Perfect strangers, having heard of his name, began to ask for him when their train arrived at the Malgudi railway station. Although Raju never looked for acquaintances, they somehow came looking for him. They stopped at his shop and asked him, “How far is that place?” or Are there many historical spots here?” or “I heard that your River Sarayu has its source somewhere on those hills and that it is a beauty spot.” Raju never said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” On the contrary, he said that it was a fascinating place, and that they must see that place. Naturally, they asked him the way and he guided them earnestly. Sometimes Raju used to ask the son of the porter during the signalling duty to mind his shop while he helped the traveller to find a taxi. Sometimes Raju accompanied the travellers and was paid for the job.

      Raju began to go with the visitors in their car or bus, talk to them, and he was treated to their food sometimes, and he got paid for it. He was so well known that people came asking for him from Bombay, Madras, and other places, hundreds of miles away. They called him Railway Raju.

      In a few months Raju was a seasoned guide. He could sense a customer even as the train streamed in at the outer signal. He had a kind of water-diviner’s instinct. He could stand exactly where a prosperous tourist would alight and look for him; it was not only the camera or binoculars slung on a shoulder that indicated to him the presence of a customer; even without any of that he could spot him. He had viewed himself as an amateur guide and a professional shopman, but now gradually he began to think of himself as a part-time shopkeeper and a full-time tourist guide. Even when he had no tourist to guide he did not go back to his shop, but to Gaffur on the fountain parapet, and listened to his talk about derelict automobiles.

      Raju had all the satisfactory answers ready for his customers. Now Raju began to talk to his customers about the money they wanted to spend. He took them for a panoramic or full view to the sights on the basis of their pockets. He could give them a glimpse of a few hours or soak them in mountain and river scenery or archaeology for a whole week. Thus Raju became a professional guide. He could guess the economic position of the tourist even from the luggage he brought.

      One thing Raju learned in his career as a tourist guide was that no two persons were interested in the something. Tastes as in food, differ also in sightseeing. It was as a tourist guide that he met Rosie, a woman from Madras who asked the moment she set foot in Malgudi to show her a cobra—a cobra it must be - which can dance to the music of a flute.

      Things happen to Raju; he does not want to do all those things. This is the case with his career as a guide too. After the Railway came to Malgudi, Raju’s father opened a shop at the station and Raju became its incharge. There the business was brisk, and Raju had to be very active. His education also came to an end because of the shop. Suddenly his father died. The old hut shop was closed, and he began to develop new lines. He bought and sold old magazines and newspapers and school-books.

      Gradually books appeared where there were coconuts before. Soon it was a book-stall, and the knowledge he got from reading, as well as from listening to the talk of his customers made him a shrewd judge of characters.

      While working on his shop he began to work as an amateur guide to the passengers who had some difficulty. Thus he went on working as an amateur guide and a professional shopman for a time. Then he evolved into a part-time shopkeeper and full-time tourist guide. Thereafter he came to be known as ‘Railway Raju’. Perfect strangers, as soon as they would get down the train, would ask for him, and would ask questions regarding the various places in Malgudi which were worth seeing. He was intelligent and shrewd and soon learned to handle these tourists, eager for sight-seeing. At a result of his constant contact with the tourists, his own knowledge of the region increased. He realised that Malgudi had countless beauty spots and historical curiosities, and he made good use of his knowledge.

      Raju pleased the tourists, and was well paid for his services. More and more the shop was left to the son of a coolie, and Raju himself acted as a guide to the ever-increasing tourist traffic that poured into Malgudi. His fame had spread and people who came from even far-off places, inquired about him and were eager to have his service. He learned to recognize a tourist and a prospective customer as soon as he alighted from the train. He was intelligent and observant and in a few months he became a seasoned guide. He himself says, “I had viewed myself as an amateur guide and a professional shopman, but now gradually I began to think of myself as a part-time shopkeeper and a full-time tourist guide. Even when I had no tourists to guide, I did not go back to my shop, but to Gaffur on the fountain parapet, and listened to his talk about derelict automobiles.”

      Gradually Raju became an expert tour guide. He could guess the economic condition of a tourist the moment he alighted from the train. In his career as a tourist guide, he soon learned that no two tourists were interested in the same things. Some were interested in historical relics, others in the beauty of nature, others in sitting in the quietly secluded bungalow on the Memphi Peaks, watching the wild animals prowling about at night. Some would like to enjoy sex there, and brought women with them. On special occasions like the trapping of an elephant or bear, tourists would come in large numbers and Raju would arrange for them a ringside seat in the spacious bamboo jungles. He thus acquired a reputation of having considerable influence with the forest department. This influence was acquired very tactfully by doing small services for the officials and employees of the department, and they in turn obliged him by providing seats to his clients. His knowledge grew. If some one wanted to see a tiger or shoot one, he knew where to arrange it. He arranged for the lamb to bait the tiger, and had high platforms built so that the brave hunters might pop off the poor beast when he came to eat the lamb, although he never liked to see either the lamb or the tiger die. If someone wanted to see a king cobra spread out its immense hood, he knew the man who could provide the show.

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